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I was in high school when I started to seriously study and practice any form of Paganism.  I was solitary except for a few experiments with an equally curious friend.  I didn’t meet any other Pagans in person until college.  The introductory books did not prepare me for the diversity in our community.  I remember an elder  looking down his nose at me when I blurted out a socially awkward “Blessed be!” in the local metaphysical store after I heard what he was talking about.  (We later had a very positive relationship.)  I vividly remember the first time I met a self-proclaimed Vampire.  (It was really uncomfortable.)

Although I never experienced witch wars or anything like that, I occasionally butt heads with people in the eclectic group I belonged to in Utica.  I came to realize Wicca did not resonate with me, but many people in the group embraced it or its teachings.  I realized I was a polytheist, a liberal reconstructionist with a blossoming interest (calling?  obsession?) in Irish culture.  I no longer embraced the Law of Three or the Rede.  Fueled by youthful passion, I wanted to remind everyone, whenever I could, that I didn’t always share their perspectives. While I seldom work a curse, studying Irish (and other Indo-European lore) revealed that it was part of those cultures and not demonized in any way.  Indeed, some of the earliest Irish curses are against inhospitable rulers who were not treating their people with dignity.

The moment you admit any of that, the moment you dismiss the Law of Three, the moment you stand in contrast to Wicca (by your ethics, your tools, your methods,  etc), lines form.  I don’t always mean for that to happen, but it’s been part of my learning curve.  It became painfully divisive whenever I shared my concerns of cultural appropriation when we planned eclectic rituals.   It was exhausting, but I loved everyone I worked with.  They were patient with me, encouraged me to share my own interests, and we always strove to be respectful, even when things became heated.  I’m really lucky that my first foray into the Pagan community was like that.  It could have been worse.  I know many people who refuse to celebrate with others because of really bad experiences.

Now that I’m a little older, I hope that I’m a little wiser.  I realize there is strength in our diversity.  It forces us to think and not become mired in tradition.  It’s good to see things from other perspectives.  Although I prefer to work with and learn from fellow Druids, polytheists, and traditional witches, some of the kindest, smartest, and most talented ritualists I know are Wiccan or influenced by those teachings.  While I find the sacred in the forests and rivers, I now understand that many find it in city streets.  I may be a vegetarian, but I know many who very respectfully hunt or lovingly raise animals, then offer some of the flesh.  I may lean towards hard polytheism, but I understand and appreciate that others see all gods as aspects of one spirit.

If you haven’t already, you should read “Undoing the Hard Work of Pagan Pioneers” by Bekah Evie Bel.  (Fair warning – it’s a Patheos blog update.  They always slow my browser.)  The author explores a topic that I and others sometimes think about.  How society sees us, and how we see each other, play a role in the novel I’ve been writing.  More people are talking about “rewilding” our traditions.  Some are calling anew to Aradia.  In our fight for rights and recognition in larger society, many worry that we have declawed ourselves in the process.  Why is it somehow possible for  Western people to accept that cultures in other countries make offerings, revere their ancestors, talk to plants, or dance while their gods ride them?  When it happens in other countries, it’s interesting, entertaining, it’s so  weird you can’t look away, it’s exotic.  When it happens in a Western country, especially in your own backyard, it’s suddenly alarming to many.  (Obviously, indigenous people live here, but the dominant culture tends to treat their traditions as exotic, too.)  Within our own Pagan community, certain practices will draw ire – you may even be ostracized.  Most people regard Paganism as a monoculture.  Heck, many people within our own community still view it that way, leading to culture shock and conflict upon encountering different traditions.

I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this…  just that I’ve been thinking about these topics.  I seem to come back to them every once in awhile as I reflect on my growth.  While there are definitely certain practices that must stay in the past based on laws and evolved perceptions of human decency, I think it’s important that individuals within the Pagan community continue to grow in a spirit of mutual respect.  We don’t have to agree all the time, but recognizing that not everyone will embrace the same practices or traditions is important to our preservation.  It’s important that we continue to learn about each other and come together to celebrate our diversity.  When we can do that, we’re better able to brainstorm and ameliorate issues concerning race, gender identity, cultural appropriation, elder care, and others challenging our growth. It’s part of why I’m involved in my local FAE Fest and enthusiastically attend PPD – to promote education so we learn about each other, celebrate our similarities and differences, and support each other.

I’m thankful to our Neo-Pagan elders and all they did to help us get where we are today, but I’m ready for certain stigmas to go away within our own diverse community.  The greater misconceptions are more likely to vanish from public opinion when we ourselves stop perpetuating the falsehood that we all believe or practice the same way.

 

 

 

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First, I want to thank @swampdruid for bringing the latest Wild Hunt post to my attention.  Sometimes, life gets busy and I miss some of their fantastic content.  With a busy toddler, work, and managing a protogrove, I rely on my connections to filter the good stuff my way.  More on that in a bit.

The Pagan community is incredibly diverse, and that’s a beautiful thing in many ways – the sign of a healthy ecosystem, some would say.  There are many who argue that Pagan clergy is antithetical to who we are, or that we are each our own priests and priestesses. People are certainly entitled to their opinions, but I feel that such strongly held beliefs, often passed down from authors who were just reviving Paganism in a very conservative West, can act as blinders to what history shows us, how the times have changed, and to our community’s needs.  In the end, to such individuals, all I can really say is “to each his or her own.”

For myself, I embrace a tradition rooted in community.  The Druids were the erudite spiritual leaders of their tribes.  They were the advisors, the judges, and the teachers in addition to the priestly class.  The lone “hedgedruids” came later as the times changed…  The pendulum started to swing the other way, and indeed we’re still in that slow motion back to a time when we actually have educated, trained spiritual leaders in our Pagan communities again.  Less of us are in hiding these days, so the very practical and inevitable past belief that we all had to be our own priests is not as necessary these days. Indeed, we should all strive to have our own personal relationships with the spirits we work with, lead our own household rites, and study for our own benefit – but we should embrace that we no longer have to work in isolation out of fear (although that fear certainly persists in some corners – we must not forget that).

Yes, part of why I joined ADF is because I loved the emphasis on studying the lore and improving our knowledge and practice with history.  The other big reason is the community.  In the US, at least, ADF is one of the biggest, most active Druid organizations.  We are connected to each other, and our clergy training program, in my opinion, is one of the best out there.  There’s certainly room for improvement, but places like Cherry Hill Seminary are out there to help fill in some blanks in the meantime!

If I believe that I am perfectly capable of communing with the spirits, why do I still need clergy? Why do I feel compelled to seek training to take on that title?  My first teacher in the Druidic path, Rev. Skip Ellison, taught me more than he probably realizes.  I watched him and the other Senior Druids of Muin Mound Grove; I watched and learned how to lead Druid rituals.  He gave me pointers and encouragement.  Liturgists for public ritual have different experiences and insights; they require related but diverse skills.  In my opinion, someone used to solitary ritual needs to see good public ritual in order to learn how to facilitate such events for others.  Just like good school teachers need mentors, so do ritual leaders. To continue the analogy with school teachers, anyone can learn themselves, but we turn to others for guidance.  Good teachers guide their students to be better learners independently.  I feel that modern clergy play a similar role.

Serving the community, teaching others, and helping others on their spiritual path as I improve myself, even without the official designation of clergy, has been an exhausting but fulfilling calling.  I’ve brought people together and created something.  The gratitude others show me for that is incredibly humbling.  I’m constantly reminding the group that we are creating it together, that I simply cannot do this alone.  I am striving to become clergy in ADF, to improve my own skills and knowledge, in order to benefit my community.  Someone has to do it.  Somehow has to step up and organize.  There weren’t any open, active polytheist Druid groups in my new home until I decided to do something about it.  People called to the roll of clergy give their time, energy, and money to bring people together so that others don’t have to feel so alone and isolated.

This latest column from the Wild Hunt, “Where is Community When Illness Strikes,” by Cara Schultz, struck close to home.  It’s a moving account of the author’s struggle with colon cancer and what the experience is like as someone in a minority Pagan faith.  One of my grovemates has been struggling with serious health issues for awhile, and as the group leader, I often find myself mulling over what I can do about that.  What can I do about that?  I continue to pray to Brighid, light candles, and reach out to my friend as often as possible.  I sent her a card after her surgery, maintained contact with her husband, trying to encourage him.  All this across an international border, too!  That border… how easy it would be to bring a casserole to a grovie on this side of the river…  Meanwhile, my job and family keep me very busy.  My education in pedagogy has helped me lead, organize, and teach.  My experience talking and working with others to create engaging experiences has strengthened my ritual skills.  My talents at sewing have helped me make ritual tools to enhance and brighten our celebrations.  I’ve had no training for helping others through difficult times.

Schultz reminds readers why clergy are truly important. It’s not simply that they teach us and help us improve our own skills.  It’s not just that they are good at organizing events and public rituals.  It’s that we need trained people who know how to deal with difficult situations, know how to help people navigate the spiritual implications of divorce, disease, war, death, and environmental destruction.  We need people to schedule rituals for joy, but also to raise the alarm and bring in the best of the best for the most intense rituals of healing, mourning, and transformation.  Official clergy status or not, we need people to delegate to others, figuring out who will make meals and provide childcare for those struggling in our community.  We need people with official clergy status to navigate hoops and red tape to assist our brothers and sisters in the army, in prisons, in hospitals…

The modern Pagan community is maturing, and we need trained clergy.  I’m proud to be a part of an organization working to make that happen.

I feel called to serve my people, and my lack of training in these difficult areas scares the heck out of me, yet I move forward, heeding the call. I can’t specialize in everything, of course, but I’m ready to learn and try to help people like me when they feel like they can’t help themselves. I often feel that I can’t do enough because of work or family obligations, but small steps in the right direction are better than hoping someone else will do it. I hope someone will be there for me in times of spiritual distress.

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Look What I Won!

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Doesn’t it haven’t a 
beautiful cover?

I’m so excited to share that I won a free autographed copy of Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess by Courtney Weber. A friend on Twitter brought the author and contest to my attention after I posted about my recent Imbolc reflections and activities.  I decided to enter because why wouldn’t a flame keeper want to get her hands on a book about Brighid?!

Plus, Inciting a Riot described it as such: “Think Eat, Pray, Love meets Mists of Avalon.”  Um…yes please?
I found it waiting for me yesterday and I hope to start reading it tonight.  What a delightful Imbolc blessing!  I’ll be sure to let you know what I think about it when I finish.  If you’re too curious to wait, you can order a copy from Courtney’s website!

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My Twitter pal Lady Althaea really inspires me.  Like other Pagans and Witches, much of her work focuses on keeping in touch with the land.  She does a lot of foraging and herbalism, and I feel like I don’t get out as much to explore like I used to.  Her posts on her blog and Twitter enchant me, and often inspire me to just seize the day and get outside.  We recently had a discussion about wood sorrel that reminded me I not only had a recipe for wood sorrel soup I wanted to try, but I had a big clump of it growing in my pea pots.  The pea plants were looking rather spent, so I took it as an opportunity to pull them, add more soil, rake it a bit, and plant more for the fall.  I also pulled up tons of wood sorrel for my soup.  The recipe comes from the book Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate by John Kallas.  It’s a wonderful introduction into foraging, focusing on the easiest to identify and prepare.  There are numerous photos to help you feel confident in your foraging. Best of all, many of the plants probably grow near your home, perhaps even sharing space with plants you are growing on purpose!

Anyway, I finally made the soup!  Oh, it was excellent.  Very onion-flavored, but the bits of wood sorrel gave it a real tart kick which I liked.  (For what it’s worth, I used potato instead of the thistle root.)

Wood sorrel soup. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Wood sorrel soup. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Other wonderful things are happening in my garden. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, I have some eggplant and even a zucchini on the way. A “surprise pumpkin” is taking shape – you know, the kind that grow out of jack-o-lantern guts!  It makes me excited for Samhain…  One of my favorite signs of August occurred recently – my sunflowers have opened!  I will let them go to seed.  I save some for more planting the following year, but I also use some as offerings over winter.

Photo Aug 13, 6 09 03 PM

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

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I’ve blogged a lot about sharing my Druidic path with Bee in the hopes that others who are thinking about raising their own children in their spiritual path will see how organic and fun it can be. What Jan describes is very much what I’ve been experiencing with my toddler. They truly are sponges, and they love to be with you and do as you do more than anything!

Mist to Open. Mists to Bind.

I’ve always intended on raising my children pagan, and over the past two years, as I’ve been putting that desire into practice, for the most part, it has not been a conscious effort. There are a few things that I try to teach my daughter, and a few things that I specifically explain to her, but mostly it is just involving her, and being surprised at how much she picks up. I walk my path unashamedly, and so she see all the little parts of my life where my faith and my practice are incorporated.  Toddlers are sponges.

She sees me pray each morning, and now fairly consistently asks “Mommy, pray?” So we pray together when she asks. I call out to Hestia and light her flame and some incense, and then we say “Yay, Hestia!” I’ve started adding in a super short prayer to the Three Kindreds and showing…

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I don’t normally reblog, but this post from John Beckett of “Under the Ancient Oaks: Musings of a Pagan, Druid, and Unitarian Universalist,” was just too good.  A friend and grovie sent it to me because she felt I am a Druid warrior.  That really made my day.  I’m definitely not a passive tree-hugger.  I do what I can to protect my tribe and the Earth Mother.

The Dark Side of Druidry.

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What a cute (and kid-friendly!) project!  I can envision folks making a new ghost each Samhain to represent a loved one who has passed away.  It could also be a wonderful way to decorate an ancestral altar in October and November.

DIY Finger-Knit Ghost Garland | Pretty Prudent.

Have fun!

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